For those of you that haven’t yet indulged in an EA Sports Ultimate Team mode — be it in FIFA, NHL, or Madden — it is basically a way for you to build up your own dream team. Play games with your team, earn some currency, buy packs for cards, buy cards from the auction house, or, new to Madden, trade your cards on the trade block. All of this goes towards the end goal of building that perfect team and playing games online against others.
Since its inception as free DLC in Madden NFL 10, Madden Ultimate Team (aka MUT) quickly became my mode of choice. I was that person in World of Warcraft that would reset the market on the auction house. That person you despised who bought low and made a ridiculous profit by reshaping and owning a piece of the market. This, for me, was like a mini-game that brought instant gratification and reward.
As you can imagine, this was a large part of the appeal for me in MUT. The mode in Madden NFL 10 and Madden NFL 11 provided a rewarding and challenging experience. While it was never perfect in the past, it still allowed for a somewhat healthy market and an experience that drove you to perfection. The future of MUT last year was bright and I looked forward to what Tiburon had in store for the mode.
There is a balance in MUT that needs to be struck. An extremely important balance. One that, in all honesty, can make or break the mode. Currently, MUT is broken. While I want to give the benefit of the doubt to Tiburon and why this is, it feels very much as if this mode is nothing more than a way to drive players towards microtransactions.
Keep in mind that I am more than able to take a step back and understand where Tiburon is coming from. This balance needs to allow for a challenging and rewarding experience for the hardcore, allow for the same thing for the casual without being frustrating, and also still make microtransactions appealing to the masses. But as many games before this have shown, that balance is something you slowly work towards.
The latest update released on Friday has proven that MUT is headed down a path that not only completely ignores this balance, but does nothing more than turn the mode into one that loses its appeal and forces the player down a path where the only way to progress is to spend their hard earned money. I completely understand that the underlying goal of this mode is for EA to make money. I am perfectly fine with that. But this is not the way you go about it. Gameplay should never take a back seat to microtransactions. This is a slap in the face to every Madden player out there. And it will be a serious disappointment to many if this mode isn’t turned around quickly.
As can be seen in the video below, Madden Ultimate Team released an update that completely worsened an already bad situation. The primary issue that existed even prior to the update is the fact that all cards rated 75 and above have the same value. That means that a 75 rated player is apparently worth the same as a 99 rated player. Logically, this doesn’t make any sense.
Prior to Friday’s update, each card also came with a tiered cost of posting to the auction house. For example, a 99 rated player cost roughly 10,000 coins just to post to the auction house while a 85 rated player cost 1,000 coins. But this wasn’t really a big issue. Yes it cost a bit too much to post, but by tying a price like this to high rated players, you allow for the economy to be filtered and make certain cards somewhat rare to see on the auction house. That is a very important part about any economy. The market has to be brought into a state of many different worthy, appealing purchases.
Instead of just lowering and scaling the cost of posting auctions, Tiburon took a different direction. All auctions can now be posted for 50 coins — regardless of card rating. Many seemed happy at first but what they didn’t realize was the consequences that this comes with. As you can imagine, the market is now completely oversaturated because there is absolutely no risk of posting a card to the auction house. And now, what you see in the auction house is every single card 75+ at a cost of 10,000 coins. In turn, cards roughly 75-89 are now rendered completely impossible to sell and have become absolutely worthless.
Add all of this to the fact that gold cards are extremely easy to obtain in packs and you are left with a majority of players with teams rated 90+. This no longer makes MUT rewarding in any sense. The appeal is almost lost entirely because it takes only a couple of hours to build your team up to 90+.
Now that your team is 90+ rating, you still might want to build it up even more. But what options do you have? How about the trade block? Well, this highly requested feature has also been rendered completely worthless due to the above issues. Why post a trade to the trade block when you can post a 90+ rated card to the auction house for next to no cost to you, obtain 10,000 coins from it and turn around and purchase the exact card or perhaps better from the auction house?
Since trade block is out of the question, you are left with two options without spending real money. One is to just play some games, build up your bank, and buy the cards you want off of the auction house. But as I noted earlier, cards rated 90+ are extremely easy to obtain from packs. So the majority of players will simply play a couple of games, purchase a gold premium pack, take the one or two cards that might improve their team and sell the rest on the auction house or simply vendor them for an average cost of roughly 50% of the cost of the pack itself.
After this is done a couple of times you more than likely have a team rated around 95 without any legendary cards. Legendary cards are now the only way to improve your team in any way. So, what options are you left with now to improve your team without spending real money? Well, how about the auction house? Nope, not the auction house. The cost of legendaries is at the least 100,000 coins. That is the cost of 10 90+ rated cards. So odds are this is out of the question.
If not the auction house, how about the trade block? Well, legendaries can only be traded for other legendaries. So that is out of the question as well. Awesome, our options our thinning by the second.
You are now left with one last option before being forced to spend real money as there are a few collections that reward a legendary. There are currently only 11 collections in MUT. Three of these collections — none of which are hard to complete — reward a legendary. But conveniently enough, each one of these three collections rewards a halfback. Which means you can fill only one position before being forced to spend real money on a legendary pack. A pack in which just saw an update on Friday that almost guarantees you to get a legendary.
So, congratulations on your easily acquired 90-95 rated team. You can now either spend that hard earned money or play games with your team against every other 90+ rated team out there. Either way, you are now left with a mode that is no longer challenging, rewarding, or fun.
Tiburon has a long road ahead of them with MUT. There are a lot of things that could bring this mode back into the state it was in years prior. Be sure to check back as the suggestions I have as to how to fix this mode will be coming next week. Until then, hit up the comments and let us know what you think about MUT thus far.